EU plans no change to climate target before 2030

Weak Commission proposal undermines Paris deal and hard-won trust of vulnerable countries, campaigners warn

EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete (Pic: Peru Climate Action/Flickr)

EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete (Pic: Peru Climate Action/Flickr)

By Megan Darby

The EU is acting like last December’s Paris climate agreement never happened.

That was the response from frustrated campaigners to the confirmation on Wednesday that Brussels had no plans to increase pre-2030 ambition.

In its post-Paris assessment, the European Commission trumpeted its role in securing the historic pact. Countries agreed to hold global warming “well below 2C” and aim for a tougher 1.5C limit – noting that existing national policies were insufficient.

Yet officials advised no change to a previously inked bloc-wide 2030 target to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% from 1990 levels.

A planned global stocktake in 2023 “is relevant for considering progressively more ambitious action by all Parties for the period beyond 2030”, the communication stated.

Niklas Hoehne, professor in climate change at Wageningen University, told Climate Home that did not add up.

“With 40%, the EU is just about within the range that could be considered 2C compatible,” he said. “It is definitely not compatible with 1.5C. Raising the ambition after 2030 is too late for all countries.”

The idea that Europe could close the gap after 2030 is “completely unrealistic,” he added. Emissions after 2030 will be influenced by investments in buildings and power plants over the next 15 years.

“Making it up after 2030 is in theory possible, but it is a costly strategy because it means closing down installations before the end of their life.”

Analysis: EU faces two-year wrangle to ratify Paris climate deal

In Paris, the EU made a show of solidarity with countries vulnerable to the impacts of global warming – the so-called “high ambition coalition”.

It backed a campaign promoted by the informal 43-country Climate Vulnerable Forum to include reference to 1.5C, seen as essential to those on the front line.

Emmanuel de Guzman, minister for climate change of the Philippines, which chairs the CVF, said the EU needed to review its emissions targets in line with that goal. “It’s time we see the EU leadership we so often hear about.”

Otherwise it is poor people who will pay, warned Christian Aid’s climate specialist Mohamed Adow.

“The world’s poor people are already paying the true cost of climate change and cannot accept the EU ruling out the potential strengthening of its 2030 emission reduction target,” he said. “They need to see good faith from the EU and other big polluters.”

Think tank E3G’s Nick Mabey agreed: “This proposal is not consistent with what member states agreed in Paris and will cause alarm in capitals. It undermines the Paris Agreement and will undermine Europe’s influence internationally.”

Report: World’s poorest seek to revive ‘high ambition coalition’ of Paris climate summit

Business, city and trade union leaders urged member states to push for tighter EU-wide goals. Environment ministers will consider the Commission’s advice at a meeting this Friday and heads of state 17-18 March.

Sandrine Dixson-Decleve, director of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, which represents 23 major businesses, emphasised it was a broad coalition.

Stronger targets are needed, she said, to “truly create the necessary framework for further investment in a competitive and resilient low carbon economy”.

Tine Heyse of Climate Alliance, a cities network with 1,700 members, asked for “a clear and reliable framework for all stakeholders to drive ambitious climate action”.

The European Trade Union Confederation’s Montserrat Mir called for policies that would “ensure a just transition for the workforce” to low carbon sectors.

Read more on: COP21 | EU